If you've never been in a car accident, you're beating the odds. In the United States, the average driver is involved in a car crash once every 18 years (PCIAA).
Driving safely can improve your chances, but unfortunately, we can't control other drivers. That being said, you have control over your response to car crashes. After dealing with car accidents for one of the largest insurance agencies and 20 years of practicing insurance law, here's 8 things you should do after getting in a car crash:
It may seem like common knowledge, but fleeing the scene of an accident is a serious offense. If you hit another car in the state of Iowa (and many others), you are required to stop near the scene without blocking traffic (Iowa Code §321.262).
2. Call 911
If at all possible, alert emergency responders to the car crash. Assuming that everything is okay can put you, your passengers, and other drivers/pedestrians at risk. In addition, Iowa law requires you to call 911 if an injury is involved (Iowa Code §321.266). Almost all of my clients that initially declined to call for help regretted it.
Having a trained professional to manage the incident and facilitate the information exchange keep people safe, while reducing the likelihood that people change stories later. This can be extremely valuable when dealing with any insurance related issues.
3. Stay Safe
Before you start thinking about the damage or insurance issues, start dealing with any immediate danger. First, decide if you're in a safe location. While there is not always a clear answer, the condition of your vehicle, traffic patterns, and weather conditions are significant factors in determining the right decision.
Another significant piece of this is helping those around you. See whether your passenger or other parties are injured or require medical attention. Relay this information to first-responders and help them if possible.
4. Gather Information
After alerting first responders and getting to a safe location, start gathering information about the crash and the parties involved. This can include pictures and video of the scene, vehicles, damage, and parties involved.
If you have called 911, wait for a police officer to arrive and start their report. They will facilitate the insurance information exchange and compile the DOT Accident Report required for most car accidents.
5. Avoid Admitting Fault
Typically, it's advantageous to refrain from admitting any fault for the accident. While you are required to comply with police requests for your driver's license, vehicle registration, and proof of insurance, you are not required to answer all their questions.
However, if the other person was at fault, providing more details can be to your advantage.
6. Seek Medical Attention
Even in low-speed collisions, there is a significant risk of occupant injury. In an analysis of low-speed collisions, researchers found that speed changes as low as 2.5 MPH can cause serious injury, especially in rear-end collisions (Davis, 1998).
Right after a car accident, you may be distracted and confused by such a stressful situation. It's important to seek care, especially if you feel like something isn't right.
7. Contact a Lawyer
Once you've dealt with the immediate issues created by the car accident, an insurance attorney can help you understand your current options. Often, there is no fee for this initial conversation. Insurance lawyers can answer questions about your insurance coverage and potential claims against the others before you reach out to your provider.
They can also provide next steps in dealing with the claims process, determining what information you should send along with your claim. While insurance attorneys can't prevent car accidents, they help protect your interests and rights after they happen.
8. Notify Your Insurance Provider
Be sure to call your insurance provider about your car accident. This is an important step in the process even if the car accident was not your fault or minor in nature.
Forgetting to report an accident can lead to increased insurance rates, denied coverage, or a canceled policy. It can also put you at a disadvantage if the other party decides to blame you for the accident.
It's important to be truthful and relay the facts of the car accident. In doing so, refrain from giving your opinion about who's at fault or the cause of the accident.
This guide provides you with a framework for dealing with challenging circumstances until you obtain quality representation. This guide won't make the claim process easy, but with it, you're more likely to protect your interests.
If you do have any questions about a car accident or your insurance, feel free to contact us. With +20 years of insurance experience, we've filled thousands of insurance claims, and are well equipped to deal with your insurance challenges.